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Copywork to actual writing

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Okay, full disclosure, i have not read The Well Trained Mind, though it is at my library awaiting pickup (finally! it's taken months for me to get it lol.)  


I have a 5 yo, who does pretty much zero writing that is not copywork-dictation-style (he dictates, i write, he copies).  I think that's what it's called, anyway.  We do a journal most days, and he is working through WWE.  His spelling is awful, as can be expected of a 5 yo.  My question is, when/how do you switch from having him copy his own dictation to writing on his own? And how do you handle spelling errors? If i push him he will try to spell things out on his own, but he wants me to tell him even for the simplest words (e.g. the, and, etc.).  He knows those kinds of words, and when he really thinks he'll get it right, but i'm at a loss as to where to go from here. 


I know it is important to not let them get into the habit of spelling incorrectly, but I don't understand how copying what I write for him will lead to him being a fluent writer, kwim?

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The WTM (and WWE) has them writing their own narrations by the end of 4th grade. Before that, you are working slowly (!!) toward that goal. So in WWE1, you do copywork and oral narration, with them copying part of their own narration. In WWE2, they do copywork, dictation, and oral narration, and they take part of their narration by dictation. In WWE3, the copywork is dropped and it's all dictation and oral narration, with them starting to write a sentence of their own later in the year (I think). So that would be 3rd grade. :) (some students are ready earlier, and your student may be one of those - this is just the general layout of the WTM method for the average student)


My oldest did WWE1 and part of 2 in 1st/2nd grade, and in 3rd grade I started having him write a sentence about something (and draw a picture first), and we also did part of IEW SWI-A, which had him writing paragraphs from a keyword outline. The KWO *really* helped him make the transition from copywork/dictation to writing his own sentences. He still needed *something* there to help him, but didn't need the whole sentence. This year in 4th, I hope to move towards him writing his own narration from his head by the end of the year. I think he'll be able to do it. We're currently using WWE3, and we will also finish up SWI-A.


As far as spelling goes... For many kids, spelling doesn't merge into original writing until closer to 9 years old. I saw a big leap in spelling ability last year at age 8, and this year he's doing really well so far. Also, they just need time to go through a spelling program. Being able to read the words has nothing to do with being able to spell them. My son was an advanced reader, but at age 5, he couldn't spell his way out of a paper bag (he also couldn't physically write much more than his name at the beginning of age 5). Now, he's a decent speller. If he's written it once, he usually remembers it pretty well. Just reading it doesn't get the spelling into his brain.


All of this time, I've been a human dictionary. If he was writing something on his own, he knew he could ask me how to spell it, and I'd tell him. I would not expect a 5 year old to know how to spell properly during original writing. In schools, they often encourage "inventive spelling" at that age (using their phonics knowledge to come up with something that is phonetically correct). I disagree with that method. Yes, it gets kids willing to write without worrying about spelling, but it also imprints improper spelling in the kids' minds. I'd rather my kids do mostly copywork in K/1st, so they can *always* be writing with correct spelling. Then as they start dictation, I help them with words as needed. And by time they are doing much original writing, they are closer to 9 and have had that "merge" of proper spelling into their writing.


The WTM method is very different from what you'll see in public schools. If you're not sure about holding off on lots of original writing until later, you might want to listen to SWB's lecture on teaching writing in the elementary years. It explains the method much better than I can. :)

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Five is still very young - does he do any of his own writing at any time other than school time? My own DD started with her name and then labelling things and writing short lists of what she wanted to do that day or what she wanted me to buy her at the shops. She can now write a sentence by herself, however if I want decent writing I do still have to get her to narrate and then copy (she copies a sentence though she will narrate more than a paragraph).


As for the spelling I did start spelling with her by dictation - we covered cvc words and "the" and "a" initially and then just kept repeating the sight word spellings while covering other spelling rules. If it was spelling time then she needed to at least try first before being corrected but I kept it that she would almost always spell things correctly based on what she knew. For her this has translated into correct spelling in her own writing and now if she misspells something she should know how to spell then I ask her what rule she has forgotten and she corrects it - but she is not a perfectionist so does not mind me correcting her. If she asks me for a spelling then I give it to her unless she knows the rule and then I ask her to try before giving it to her if she doesn't get it.


If you are going to encourage a 5 year old boy to write by himself then I'd probably do it by getting him to write speech bubbles for characters he draws or labelling his pictures before expecting sentences and spelling whatever he needs help with. Copywork and narration is definitely the place to start however so you are doing a good job.

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I keep spelling lessons and copywork separate from their independent writing.   I don't correct the things they are writing on their own for fun.  


As far as how copywork aids actual writing skills, I wrote a pretty thorough explanation of how it works in our house in this thread (it was long and takes 2 posts).   I have successfully taught 6 kids to be excellent writers via this path, so it does work.   (My #7 is on the journey.  :) )



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